The father of an eight-year-old boy with Long COVID says he now has to spoon feed his son because he is so tired at the end of the day.
For most children, coronavirus is a mild disease that they soon recover from.
However, Paul O’Connell’s son, Jake, has Long COVID and endures pain, exhaustion and brain fog more than a year after testing positive for the virus.
COVID also triggered something called Paediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome - or PANS - which has complicated Jake’s recovery further.
“It’s a swelling of the brain that is post-viral - so he got this because of COVID,” Mr O’Connell told Lunchtime Live.
“But then he hasn’t recovered from COVID either.”
The brain swelling caused by PANS triggers uncontrollable emotion and, initially, doctors were sceptical there was anything clinically wrong with him.
It was only thanks to the hard work of Jake’s mother, Sarah, that he was formally diagnosed.
“She fought for it and she researched it,” Mr O’Connell said.
“We had so many GPs saying, ‘It’s probably all in his head, a lot of kids are upset by going back to school.’
“We had to go all the way to London and find a remarkably expensive consultant and fly over there for two days and get him tested - bloods and everything else - and they came back with a confirmed diagnosis.”
The condition has severely impacted Jake’s daily life and he often requires help with the simplest of tasks.
“He would go from zero to lashing out physically or emotionally,” Mr O’Connell said.
“He would come back from school in tears because his poor little body had muscle fatigue.
“He strictly speaking had an hour of energy a day and I’ve lost my little boy.
“We are now at a stage where we do not give in but we understand it and there’s a lot more patience on both our sides.”
Jake now does two or three days a week at school but comes home exhausted.
His illness has even impacted his appetite and he is sometimes too tired to eat.
“Last night again, because he was so tired, I had to brush his teeth and put him into his pyjamas,” Mr O’Connell said.
“He couldn’t do it because he’s too tired and exhausted; his arms are too sore.
“He looks at me and hands me the toothbrush because he can’t and it’s just brushing his teeth.
“It comes to spoon feeding him sometimes just to make sure that he eats.”
Mr O’Connell describes his son as “such a little trooper” but worries that doctors still do not know enough about Long COVID.
“We don’t know how to fix it,” he said.
“We’re on supplements, we’ve got our consultant over in Britain, we’ve got him on different medications.
“Some of the medications trigger different stomach issues, so he has to go on lactinex.
“He’s got a litany of stuff in the morning and the afternoon and the evening and he’s got to the point where it’s just par for the course.”
The HSE is planning a study of Long COVID patients and Mr O’Connell is keen for Jake to take part.
“Whatever it needs to get [him] on that survey, I’ll do it,” he said.
Main image: Jake.